A petite winter gull

A small gull alone, floating as light as a cork.

Riding the waves.

In winter we have more gulls.

I was thinking about tuning into the winter gull situation when I spotted this one yesterday, just south of the sailing club at Indian Riverside Park in Jensen Beach.

This gull was taking short hops off the surface of the Indian River Lagoon with occasionally dipping or shallow diving to feed.

Not to diss other gulls, but this one seemed to be making more of an effort to get its own food than I often observe in the family Laridae, suborder Lari.

Small smudge behind its ear, small black bill, orangey legs, black-tipped feathers on wings.

I got some decent photos and thought I’d be able to learn this gull when I downloaded the photos back at home.

I had heard of a Bonaparte’s gull before and that’s the first species I checked on All About Birds…

Bonaparte’s Gulls are sleek, small gulls that breed in the boreal forest and winter farther south on ocean coasts, lakes, and rivers. Adults have black heads and red legs in the summer; in winter they have a neat gray smudge near the ear. They fly with ternlike agility, flashing bright white primaries that form a distinctive white wedge in the upperwing. Bonaparte’s Gulls capture flying insects and pluck tiny fish from the water with equal ease.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Bonapartes_Gull/overview

Dip dive.

I looked at similar species them double-checked on Facebook’s “What’s This Bird.”

Yes, I’ve got me a Bonaparte’s gull.

eBird: Note unique wing pattern: several outer primaries white with black tips. Red legs. Adults in breeding plumage show black head. Nonbreeding and immatures have white head with black spot behind eye. Immatures also show white primaries with blackish-brown markings on the upperwing. 

According to eBird stats, they are seen around here from mid-November to April. Snowbirds… or snowgulls.

Blogged bird #220.

eBird mobile, ducks, geese and golf balls

Duck on a golf course.

Goose on a golf course.

Egyptian Goose to be precise.

They are native to Africa but have busted free of zoos and backyard breeders and established wild populations in Florida and elsewhere.

A Mottled Duck, a common Florida duck.

This is a male, with the yellowy-green bill. Females have an orange bill. Very tame little guy. Looking adorable – hoping for a bread crust, I suppose.

My birdwatching wanders yesterday morning, at the Hutchinson Marriott Resort. I was trying to get close to a few ponds and look for winter ducks.

Also yesterday I used eBird mobile for the first time. The night before I (finally) completed the free course eBird Essentials in the Cornell Lab or Ornithology Bird Academy.

Here’s me trying to zoom in on some distant gulls to figure out what species were loafing around on the golf course. (Laughing gulls and Ring-billed Gulls, it turns out.)

Over the course of the hour I watched birds, I saw three different groups of Double-crested Cormorants. There were five individuals in each group. Cormorants come in fives?

My old eyes tuned in to the fact there were a bunch of little sandpiper birds out there too. I should have brought my binoculars but I felt like carrying my camera was enough.

They flew over to a different patch of grass. I hope nobody thought I was telephoto-stalking the golf players!

A lady walking her dog advised me to keep an eye out for flying golf balls.

Ruddy Turnstones, a couple of Sanderlings, some Killdeer.

And one lone Dunlin! It’s the bird with the longest bill in the photo above. A new bird to my blog, number 218.

Five Killdeer and one Ruddy Turnstone.

A small duck caught my eye. Wished I could get closer. Like, hitch a ride on a golf cart to go private-golf-course birding! There should be such a thing.

It was a Hooded Merganser, by itself.

In another pond was a group of three Hooded Mergansers.

I’ve seen this species of duck one other time, on a pond in NH in January 2016.

Winter visitors.

Anhinga and gulls out on the golf course, with the other winter visitors. Walking around the condos I noticed license plated from Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Maryland and West Virginia.

Fuzzy, cropped in pic of a Pie-billed Grebe, also down from the frozen north.

Ahoy, six mystery ducks!

My first Lesser Scaup, bird number 219!

In another pond I saw a bunch of floating golf balls.

Wait, do they hit golf balls into the pond on purpose? That’s weird.

Here’s my complete eBird checklist from my two-mile walk: January 29 Hutchinson Island Marriott.

Up on the roof

When this old world starts a getting me down
And people are just too much for me to face
I’ll climb way up to the top of the stairs
And all my cares just drift right into space

On the roof, it’s peaceful as can be
And there the world below don’t bother me
No, no

So when I come home feeling tired and beat
I go up where the air is fresh and sweet
I get far away from the hustling crowd
And all that rat race noise down in the street

On the roof, that’s the only place I know
Look at the city, baby
Where you just have to wish to make it so
Let’s go up on the roof

And at night the stars, they put on a show for free
And darling, you can share it all with me
That’s what I say, keep on telling you The right smack dab in the middle of town
I’ve found a paradise that’s trouble proof
And if this old world starts a getting you down
There’s room enough for two

Up on the roof, up on the roof, up on the roof oh now
Everything is all right, everything is all right
Come on

Put down what you’re doing tonight and climb up the stairs with me and see
We got the stars up above us and the city lights below, oh
Up on my roof now

Black skimmers, blog bird # 217

Birds chilling on the beach, Black Skimmers and gulls.

We were exploring the Fort Pierce Inlet and saw these birds near the Museum Pointe Park. From afar I thought they might be skimmers, a bird I don’t see very often, and a bird I haven’t blogged yet.

“Let’s go check it out!”

A wonderfully different bird, with that strange bill.

The strange, uneven bill of the skimmer has a purpose: the bird flies low, with the long lower mandible plowing the water, snapping the bill shut when it contacts a fish. Strictly coastal in most areas of North America, Black Skimmers are often seen resting on sandbars and beaches. Unlike most birds, their eyes have vertical pupils, narrowed to slits to cut the glare of water and white sand. Flocks in flight may turn in unison, with synchronized beats of their long wings. The world’s three species of skimmers are sometimes placed in their own separate family, although they are clearly related to the terns.https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/black-skimmer

Laughing Gulls and Willets were also resting on the white sand beach.

Piercing calls and distinctive wing markings make the otherwise subdued Willet one of our most conspicuous large shorebirds. Whether in mottled brown breeding plumage or gray winter colors, Willets in flight reveal a bold white and black stripe running the length of each wing. These long-legged, straight-billed shorebirds feed along beaches, mudflats, and rocky shores. Willets are common on most of our coastline—learn to recognize them and they’ll make a useful stepping-stone to identifying other shorebirds.https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Willet/overview

Skimmer front view. Look how skinny that bill is!

The pelican scoop

Florida, starring Brown Pelicans!

I feel like I don’t take enough pictures of pelicans relative to how often I see them, which is pretty much daily because I live in Sewall’s Point, a peninsula connected by bridges to the mainland and a barrier island (Hutchinson).

So, here: a bounty of Pelicanus occidentalis.

Also known as a pod, a pouch, a scoop or a squadron of pelicans.

Audubon.org…

An unmistakable bird of coastal waters. Groups of Brown Pelicans fly low over the waves in single file, flapping and gliding in unison. Their feeding behavior is spectacular, as they plunge headlong into the water in pursuit of fish. The current abundance of this species in the United States represents a success story for conservationists, who succeeded in halting the use of DDT and other persistent pesticides here; as recently as the early 1970s, the Brown Pelican was seriously endangered.

We were stopping by the Fort Pierce Inlet at the north end of Hutchinson Island on a Sunday drive. It was too windy and rough to walk out on the jetty.

So we walked west along the south-side inlet shoreline to see what we could see.

The inlet connects the Indian River Lagoon with the Atlantic Ocean. There is no development at the ocean end of the inlet on either side. The north side is preserved as a state park.

Fishing was the main focus, of humans and birds alike.

Fish were feeding and breaking on the surface all over the place.

Here’s a Double-crested Cormorant, popping up from underwater fishing.

Royal Tern on high.

Forages mostly by hovering over water and plunging to catch prey just below surface. https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/royal-tern

Brown Pelicans go even more “all in”.

Forages by diving from the air, from as high as 60′ above water, plunging into water headfirst and coming to surface with fish in bill. Tilts bill down to drain water out of pouch, then tosses head back to swallow. Will scavenge at times and will become tame, approaching fishermen for handouts.https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/brown-pelican#

They often look like they’re crash landing face first into salt water.

This guy had a fish on his line and was steadily working it closer and ready to gaff it when a pelican tried to steal it. He waved his gaffe and the pelican backed off, but not before trying to dive underwater and grab it.

View toward the north side jetty. Lots of birds, lots of fish.

And lots of wind.

Sometimes I look at pelicans and wonder how they stay in the air. I mean, their wings are really big, but so are their heads and bills. So big.

But they are master flyers. I like when they soar down low over the water to use what human aviators (like my husband) call “ground effect” to stay effortlessly aloft.

This juvenile Brown Pelican is banded. You can just barely see the band on the near leg, which is tucked up so nice and aerodynamically.

It was a good day for fishing, even for the humans.

I think it’s a Crevalle Jack. This man kept his fish.

I have eaten this kind of jack, very, very fresh, about 20 minutes after my husband caught it from the bridge near our house. He filleted it into chunks, I marinated it for about 10 minutes in lime juice, then cooked it in a cast iron pan with butter and Cajun seasonings. Served over white rice, it was delicious. It has dark red flesh like a tuna.

Snook (a fish I had never heard of until I moved here) are one of the most beloved fish for inshore Florida fishermen. But snook are not always in season (including right now): FWC regulations.

So gaze longingly at the snook and go catch a jack.

Fort Pierce Inlet is a nice destination, easily accessible, and a great place to walk and bird-watch.

I even spent a little time with a charming pair of Eurasian-collared Doves, fishing for love.

Coo.

Causeway birds – January

Ospreys always overhead. Every day.

This one was soaring above one of our favorite spots, “the causeway.” It’s a park under the west side of the Ernest Lyons Bridge that crosses the Indian River Lagoon, connecting Sewall’s Point and Hutchinson Island. We can walk there from home. It’s a favorite spot to throw the ball for the dog and watch birds, fish, boats, fishermen and windsurfers.

We are the watchers. The walkers and watchers.

Here’s a bird we watched.

A Great Blue Heron was standing in shallows on the north side.

This bird can strike a pose. Vogue Heron.

It is showing some blue coloring near its eye and some long dark plumes on its head. Its legs are turning a darker color too. Mating season ahoy.

Spotted from afar, a Spotted Sandpiper. I moved slowly closer.

These are the most widespread sandpipers in North America, but not super common around here as far as I can tell. They migrate north for their summer mating season.

The tail bobbing movement of this bird is distinctive, and caught my eye while I was watching this one and trying to ID it.

From Cornell Lab of Ornithology…

  • Its characteristic teetering motion has earned the Spotted Sandpiper many nicknames. Among them are teeter-peep, teeter-bob, jerk or perk bird, teeter-snipe, and tip-tail.
  • The function of the teetering motion typical of this species has not been determined. Chicks teeter nearly as soon as they hatch from the egg. The teetering gets faster when the bird is nervous, but stops when the bird is alarmed, aggressive, or courting.

I tallied the birds I watched on this day and submitted an e-Bird checklist here: Amy Kane January 3 Ernest Lyons Bridge 7 species

I think I’ll check in at this spot once a month this year, and keep an eye on the birds close to home.

That includes our winter friends the vultures, like this Black Vulture on a causeway lamppost.

“I think the most important quality in a birdwatcher is a willingness to stand quietly and see what comes. Our everyday lives obscure a truth about existence – that at the heart of everything there lies a stillness and a light.” – Lynn Thomson